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Bengaluru FC eye redemption in Super Cup finale

Bengaluru FC’s training session at the Kalinga Stadium Training Ground on the eve of their Super Cup pre-quarterfinal clash against Gokulam Kerala FC. (Photo courtesy: Bengaluru FC)

Bengaluru FC’s bid to win a fifth title in as many seasons of the club’s existence, will face one last hurdle in East Bengal as the two sides go to battle in the final of the Super Cup, at the Kalinga Stadium, in Bhubaneswar, on Friday. Albert Roca’s Blues who missed out on the ISL title, going down in a final played just a little more than a month ago, have a shot at redemption and the Spanish manager said hunger and confidence is what will propel the Blues’ charge.

“We’ve kept aside the disappointment of not winning the ISL because it won’t do us any good. If anything, it’s made us hungrier to keep alive the tradition of this club to win a trophy every season. The Super Cup final is another chance and we will be going into the game with the right amount confidence. We’ve been consistent and have had a fantastic season so far. It would be nice to have a trophy for our efforts,” said Roca on the eve of the game.

Bengaluru have been clinical all through the tournament, always finding the answers to come away with a win. The Blues shrugged off the rust to beat Gokulam Kerala FC 2-1 before beating NEROCA FC 3-1. Then, in what was a performance for the ages, a ten-man Bengaluru came from a goal down to beat arch rivals Mohun Bagan 4-2 and storm into the final.

East Bengal, on the other hand, have been doing just enough to progress. They started with 2-1 win over Mumbai City FC and followed it up with 1-0 wins over both, Aizawl FC and FC Goa to set up a date with Bengaluru.

Roca brushed aside the talk of Bengaluru’s billing as favourites going into the final but hoped his side would get a grip on the game as it progressed. “We have a 50% chance to win this and I’m hoping that as the game wears on, we increase that number. East Bengal will enter the game with a similar belief, so I don’t really make much of and tag that we’ve been given.”

The Blues are sweating over the fitness of two vital players in defenders Juanan Gonzalez and Rahul Bheke. The Spanish center half was pulled out of the squad minutes before kick-off against Mohun Bagan, complaining of pain in his rib cage. Bheke, meanwhile, was an early substitution against NEROCA FC in the quarterfinal after injuring his leg. “Both of them aren’t 100% ready and I’m hoping that our medical team pulls off a little miracle. What I am certain of though, is that whoever plays in those positions will be completely ready for the job at hand,” said Roca.

East Bengal have an injury concern of their own after striker Dudu Omagbemi, whose goal against FC Goa sent the Kolkata club to the final, left the pitch clutching his hamstring and in visible pain. Roca preferred not to guess whether the Nigerian would make the cut in Khalid Jamil’s squad or not. “You’re saying he’s out of the fixture, but you never know, Dudu could start the game and score a goal or two. Football is always unpredictable, which is why I’m not going to go about guessing things I have no idea about.”

Dudu aside, Jamil has enough quality in his other foreign players. Katsumi Yusa, Mahmoud Al Amna, Ansumana Kromah and Eduardo Ferreira are all experienced hands who have been part of championship-winning teams.

A free-scoring Bengaluru will hope their lethal attack turns up with the goals yet again. Sunil Chhetri and Miku have both notched hat-tricks in the tournament and Udanta Singh has been causing all sorts of troubles to defences through the season with his pace and quality of the final ball in the box.

The game kicks off at 4 pm and will be telecast on the Star Sports Network, Hotstar and Jio TV.

(Bengaluru FC)